[Hpn] Anger at victim's wake

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Tue, 26 Jun 2001 11:16:36 -0700


The Bergen Record
Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Anger at victim's wake as teens await court hearing

Staff Writers

As Hector Robles is laid to rest today, the 11 Paterson teenagers charged
with beating him to death last week will be before a family court judge in
Passaic County, facing charges of murder, felony murder, and robbery.

Robles, a 43-year-old homeless man, was kicked and beaten on Wednesday by a
group of up to 20 youths in what authorities call a "wilding" incident.

The teenagers, mostly students at John F. Kennedy High School, left the
school about 10:40 a.m. on the last day of classes and roamed 10 blocks,
assaulting two others before attacking Robles as he sat on a tire near
Jasper Street and Totowa Avenue, police said. Afterward they went through
Robles' pockets.

Robles, described as a fixture in the city's Totowa section, will have a
funeral Mass at St. John the Baptist Cathedral this morning and will be
buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Totowa.

As police and city constables stood outside for traffic duty, relatives,
city officials, residents, and those who had helped Robles on the street
gathered at Martinez's Funeraria Latina on Market Street for Robles' wake.

In his 47 years in Paterson, funeral director Manuel Martinez said he had
prepared many wakes for homeless people, but none seemed to have touched the
city like Robles' death.

"This is tragic," Martinez said. "This should have never happened."

Gerry Torres, a retired chief in the Passaic County Sheriff's Department and
a friend of the family, said the killing was senseless and that it was time
to stop coddling juveniles who commit serious crimes. He regretted that
because the suspects are juveniles their names won't be released.

"On both ends there are lives destroyed," said Torres' brother, Sam Torres,
referring to Robles and the suspects. "This is a crime where there probably
was no target. It's a situation where it could have been any one of us."

In the funeral home, Robles' sisters sobbed. In his open casket, a white
lily was in Hector Robles' folded hands.

Paterson Police Chief Lawrence Spagnola and Public Safety Director Ernest
Hutchinson took their turns kneeling before the casket. A small boy knelt
and placed his hand on Robles' folded hands.

At the front of the funeral home, Jeff Young, 48, of Paterson, a
self-described poet, handed out a poem he had written. It ended, "Hector,
I'll always remember you." Young said he used to give Robles money when he
saw him on the street. "He didn't bother nobody," Young said.

Robles' relatives were resolute, holding back their rage. "Oh," sobbed
Gladys Robles Pagan, a sister, "I'm going to fight this, so help me God."

She and other relatives want the suspects to be tried as adults.

Raymond Pagan, Gladys Pagan's husband, was no less determined.

"I'm not going to rest until they're tried as adults," he said. "If I have
to go to the highest court I will."

Paterson school board member Juan "Mitch" Santiago said the community should
come together today and let the judge know residents want the suspects tried
as adults. "As a community we should tell him we've had enough," Santiago

Former Councilwoman Maria Magda O'Keefe said Robles performed "mandados," or
chores for residents and factory workers in the neighborhood, cleaning
sidewalks, going for coffee, running errands.

The juveniles, who range in age from 15 to 17, may face additional assault
charges for attacking at least two other people during the rampage,
including another teenager and a delivery truck driver, authorities said.
Additional juveniles may still be charged.

The defendants were expected to be in the Paterson courtroom this morning
for what is known as a probable cause hearing. There is no bail for juvenile

Some juveniles can be released on home detention while their cases are
pending, but that is unusual for such a serious crime.

In the probable cause hearing, the state will present evidence and testimony
-- usually from a police officer or investigator who will read statements
given by witnesses or defendants. If Superior Court Judge Nestor F. Guzman
finds there is probable cause to believe that the juveniles committed the
crimes, then they will continue to be held at the county's youth detention
center in Haledon to await trial.

If the judge does not find probable cause, the juveniles will be released,
but the charges will remain.

The state has not decided whether it will seek to try the teenagers in adult
court. As a juvenile, the maximum punishment for murder is 20 years in
prison. In adult court, murder carries a life prison term with at least 30
years before parole.

Last year, the law regarding waiver to adult court changed for juvenile
defendants age 16 and 17 who are charged with the most serious crimes.
Previously, all teenagers could fight to keep their cases in juvenile court
if they could convince a judge they could be rehabilitated by age 19.

The new law dictates that if the state asks for a waiver for those older
juveniles, prosecutors need prove only that there is probable cause to
believe that the teenager committed the crime, and the case is tried in
adult court.


Staff Writer Jennifer V. Hughes' e-mail address is hughesj@northjersey.com

Copyright  2001 North Jersey Media Group Inc

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